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Make Math REAL: Maker Challenges to Promote Math Learning among English Language Learners

Three students participate in a Make Math REAL activity.

In collaboration with Sonoma State University, Make Math REAL is an NSF-funded project to develop, test, and study Maker Learning Cycle (MLC) curriculum units for linguistically and culturally diverse students in grades 4 and 5. Each Maker challenge engages students in hands-on creation of solutions to authentic problems in a social context, and each challenge is followed by one to three mathematics lessons related to the challenge. This project is guided by the hypothesis that authentic Maker experiences promote deeper engagement with mathematics concepts among linguistically and culturally diverse students; promote STEM activation in the dimensions of fascination, competency beliefs, and innovation stance; and enhance teacher perceptions of linguistically and culturally diverse students’ capacities.

Through a combination of student surveys, math assessments, student interviews, and classroom observations, the research is guided by two questions: (1) How and to what extent do the MLCs support engagement for linguistically and culturally diverse students in ways that traditional instruction does not? And (2) To what extent do MLCs support linguistically and culturally diverse students’ growth in STEM learning activation and deeper mathematics learning?